Category Archives: AV Electoral Reform

So what did we learn from the General Election 2015?

Have any of us actually learned anything from the results of the General Election? There is much talk of who has won, and who has lost. It does seems like there will be a load of introspection and reflection amongst Labour and the LibDems who in their own ways suffered devastating defeats in the early hours of Friday morning.   For those voters who voted for UKIP and the Greens, however, there is probably a fair amount of confusion, if not utter dis. And for those who voted Conservative, Green, UKIP  and LibDem in Scotland & Wales, you too probably feel pretty confused also. Put simply, votes don’t match seats, they never have and never will, unless of course there is reform to the system.

The raw data is fascinating.  And data never lies.

In the UK as a whole the Conservatives  had 11,334,920 votes for them, namely 36.9% of the total votes cast. Labour were almost 2 million votes behind, which is a huge margin, with 9,347,326, representing 30.4% of the total votes cast. The 3rd biggest party was UKIP who recorded 3,881, 129 votes, i.e 12.6% of the votes cast. UKIP also got more votes in Scotland than the Greens – 47,078 vs 39,205, and in Northern Ireland 18.324 vs 6,822. In Wales 204,360 voted UKIP  more than Plaid Cymru who got 181.694, the LibDems 97,383 and the Greens with 38,344. For all the date see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election/2015/results

All of these voters voting for UKIP and yet they only got 1 seat in the House of Commons? How can this be right in a modern democracy?  Maybe the word ‘modern’ is a little misplaced?

Well we are told that the electoral system we have, called First Past The Post (FPTP), delivers strong government and therefore it is the right system for the United Kingdom. That is certainly debateable, but if we want a democracy to represent and importantly include the people, we need a system that actually represents those who cast their vote.  In so many constituencies, unless you vote for the incumbent MP, your vote will be wasted.

If you live in an inner city in England, good luck voting Conservative, Labour always get in. Similarly, if you live in the suburban and rural South or South West, if you vote Labour it will make no difference.   Millions of votes are in effect wasted. That is why the 2 big parties focus on these so called ‘marginals’. Those ‘marginals’ decide which colour of Government sitting in Parliament we actually get.  So the system gets even more undemocratic and unrepresentative.  Indeed, many MPs can be elected without being the majority candidate in their seat!

One of the key reasons why so many people voted in the Scottish Referendum, 84.5% of voters turned out to vote, versus 66.1% in this General Election, was because their vote actually counted.

Right now, I believe we have a divided Britain, where whole parts of the country feel totally unrepresented despite having real support. The General Election result has actually made things worse.

Put simply, based on the proportions of votes cast, we would be looking at a Parliament made up of the following.

Conservatives = 240 seats (versus 331 seats now)

Labour = 198 seats (versus 232 seats now)

UKIP = 82 seats (versus 1 seat now)

LibDems –  51 seats (versus 8 seats now)

SNP = 30 seats (versus 56 seats now)

Greens – 24 seats (versus 1 seat now)

And then to each of Plaid Cymru in Wales, Sinn Fein and Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland would get 4 seats.  The rest would be made up of all the really small parties.

From that Parliamentary make up, it would be up to the parties to try and form a Government. This is the tricky bit and it would have to be a coalition of parties of course, as no one party would command over half (i.e 326) seats to make absolutely certain that they could form a Government of one colour.

But fear not, there will be reform to the system and it is coming in 2018. It is called boundary changes, something that is called for variously by Labour or the latterly the Conservatives, in order to retain the status quo. They both know the current system is unfair, undemocratic and unrepresentative of the votes cast. But they just don’t care enough to call for review and reform. Have a look at Owen Patterson who was interview today, around 5 mins 20 secs in. He believes passionately in electoral reform, just not really the reform many voters actually need.

So what is the real lesson learnt from this election? Same as it ever was, voting for so many people has proven to be fruitless and a waste of time. Unless you vote Conservative or Labour, you won’t get heard. Unless of course if you live in Scotland, where the SNP have ‘won’ this election.

So there you have it. Don’t bother voting Green, unless you live in Brighton, or UKIP, the system laughs in your face.  Be a good citizen and decide if you want to go red or blue, Labour or Conservative, because they really are the only choices. As both leaders told us so many times, you only have 2 choices of who will be Prime Minister.  At least we got David Cameron, I suppose.

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#oneaday 45: AV:I will shut up and let the Baroness explain

Boy oh boy, Baroness Warsi has made some right old ricketts in her day, but if you are at all confused about the whole Alternative Vote (AV) Referendum this week, invest afew  minutes of your time and watch this video. This is absolutley brilliant, and lurches between comedy, pathos and bathos. If we were voting for speaking loudly, trying to make pre-briefed points no matter what the question and not simply not listening, this lady who serves in the Cabinet would get my vote anyday. Except of course, she is a non voted for member of the Cabinet ‘passionately supporting our current voting system. The First Past the Post (FPTP) system has not put her in government, but I am sure if she was in charge of the #N2AV campaign, she would allege AV would give us ‘losers’  in positions of power. You have to laugh.

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#oneaday 44: AV – more stats

I have just been looking up the voting  percentage splits from previous elections over the last 30 years in the UK and it seeems that there is a recurring theme here:-

1979 the results of the three main parties were:

Conservatives, 43.9% of the vote, 339 seats

Labour, 36.9% of the vote, 269 seats

Liberals, 13.8% of the vote, 11 seats.

1983

Conservatives, 42.4% of the vote, 397 seats

Labour, 27.6% of the vote, 209 seats

SDP/Liberal Alliance, 25.4% of the vote, 23 seats

1987

Conservatives, 42.2% of the vote, 376 seats

Labour, 30.8% of the vote, 229 seats

Alliance (now LibDems) , 22.6% of the vote, 22 seats

1992

Conservatives, 41.9% of the vote, 336 seats

Labour, 34.4% of the vote, 271 seats

Liberal Democrats, 17.8% of the vote, 20 seats.

1997

Labour, 43.2% of the vote, 418 seats

Conservatives, 30.7% of the vote, 165 seats

Liberal Democrats, 16.8% of the vote, 46 seats

So, without any real argument, our First Past the Post (FPTP) system allows a majority (and therefore ‘strong and decisive) government with minority votes – no more than 43.9% of the voters ever voted for the government in the last 30 years!

So, imagine yourselves in a real life situation, where ten of you are in a meeting, maybe at work, at your school, in your local community. After some debate, you take a vote and under half of those in attendance, those who have taken part, those with arguments win the day. Would the other 6 really stand for that? Of course not. There would be further debate until agreement was made which allowed the majority to feel empowered and to feel that their opinions actually count. That is real life.

If there is any doubt, would we countenance any judicial system, and crucially trial by jury, that did not rely on a majority call? Of course we wouldn’t. AV is not that system, but it feels like FPTP is really not that fair, even if it may be a ‘simple’ system that is ‘easy to understand’.

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#oneaday 43: AV – An Alternative View

I came across this blog yesterday, written incidentally by a man I met many years ago when he worked in the video games industry. I actually thought this was pretty interesting given it was written not only by a Conservative, but a Conservative who actually works in public service as a Conservative, Mr Andrew Boff. I would encourage you to read the blog and also then cast your eyes down the comment section – the visceral ire is pretty unmistakeable, no surprise there though, given that internet trolls seem to be everywhere nowadays!

Anyway, if you have a moment, have a read of his blog http://conservativehome.blogs.com/platform/2011/04/andrew-boff-our-electoral-system-is-broke-fix-it.html 

It does feel sort of mad that we have a system which sends 440 of the 650 MPs to Parliament without the majority support of their electorates. I mean that just does not seem right, or am I missing something?

Add to this some very simple statistics about the 2005 General Election, where the Labour party won by a landslide using the First Past The Post (FPTP)  system :-

Labour won 356 of the seats in Parliament – a majority of seats ie 55.2% , but won with only 35.3% of the votes cast.

Conservative won 198 seats in Parliament ie 30.7% of the seats, but actually recorded 32.3% of the votes cast – only 3% less than Labour but 24.5% less seats!

The Liberal Democrats polled 22.1% of the votes (i.e 10.2% less than Conservative and 13.2% less than Labour) but only won 62 seats, i.e 9.2% of those available.

It looks to me that our voting system, unlike our country, is broken, or certainly does not work.  The Alternative Vote (AV) is not going to fix that system however. Indeed, some will argue that it will only help more coalitions come into play and therefore it will be impossible to vote a single party (often branded ‘strong’ and ‘principled ‘) government out. That could well be the case, but it does rather suggest that the people of the UK or either Labour or Conservative voters and everyone else will not get a look in. Surely the 20th century showed that a cycle of Conservative and Labour governments was not great for our nation. Swinging left to right seems like such a waste of energy after all. Can we simply not take a straight path, dealing with issues rather than party politics? The days of empire are over and the repression of the working classes feels less today than it was perhaps in the first half of the 20th century. May be now is the time to embrace change, in a particularly British way – not too radical, not too fast and certainly not revolutionary. #Yes2AV is a small change so does this make it right?

More research and more reading needed on this issue for me. Next up I want to see what the politicians say, so off to YouTube to see what I can find.

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#oneaday 41: AV: Facts on the Fly(er)?

What a fantastic weekend we had. 4 days off and the most wonderful weather here in the UK. So fantastic that I decided to attend a wonderful Point to Point race meeting in the Cotswolds with friends. Glorious sunshine, happy faces, a few decent horses, some very game riders and plenty of advertising hoardings, flyers and even a  tent advertising No2AV with a big green X.  Mind you, there was no sign of Yes2AV which got me thinking why was there a ‘No’ and no ‘Yes’?

Maybe those who know about laser focus targetting felt that their target demographic would be at the meeting. From the literature I read, I am told that the only party campaigning for this Yes2AV are the Liberal Democrats, so I guess the crowd were deemed to be Conservative, Labour or simply ‘don’t care’. 

One of the leaflets carried a picture of the prime minister with a signed message:-

‘The ‘Alternative Vote’  is an unfair system that allows candidates who finish third to win elections. I urge you to vote ‘No’ to AV on 5 May, otherwise Britain could be stuck with an expensive and discredited voting systems for generations to come.

I wonder how many of those who finish third would really end up winning, although it is possible with AV and not possible under First Past the Post (or Furthest Past the Post as it could be called?  Also I would like to find out more about the ‘expensive’ nature of of the AV system, and just to round things off understand why the system is ‘discredited’ and more accurately by whom? Mr Cameron did not reference any of these facts, so I am on the hunt to find out more.

On the reverse of the flyer we are given ‘3 good reasons to vote NO’

1) ‘AV is unfair – some people’s votes would be counted more that others’ . Good to hear that fairness is a priority. I would simply ask both systems and their supporters is it fair to get a winner if they don’t receive 50% or more of the vote?

2) ‘AV is discredited – [aha, here we are, some evidence! ]- only three countries in the world use it: Fiji, Australia and Papua New Guinea‘.  I wonder if the people of these 3 countries know that they are discredited? Many other countries use Proportional Representation (PR) rather than AV or indeed FPTP.

3) ‘AV doesn’t work Under AV, the person who comes second or third can end up winning’  True this can happen in extremis, but statistical research in countries that use AV (those discreduited ones) shows that it is rare for the person coming second or third in the first round not to win overall.

I would like some ‘Yes2AV’ material to question, but sadly I have not received any printed flyers, either through my door (twice) or at the racing. Mind you I did rather like the sum up strap line on one of the ‘No2AV’ leaflets which made me smile

‘AV is a politicians fix: Vote No2AV on May 5th’ I think we can safely assume this piece is at least incontrovertible!

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#oneaday 40: When educated people simply can’t add up

Having decided that the Referendum on AV is not actually going to costs tax payers any extra, the next issue to consider is if we vote to bring in AV, how much will it cost to implement at the next general election? If you read or watch the #No2AV campaign materials, it will cost the UK £250 million. That is a lot of money in anyone’s book right?

Apparently though, the referendum itself is costing £91 million. That is according to the leaflet in favour of #No2AV that dropped through my door last week. I am not sure exactly where that number comes from – so would like to challenge it. Given we are being asked to vote at exactly the same time as the other elections planned for that day, which would happen anyway, where does £91 million come from?

That makes me suspcious of the next set of figures printed in the leaflet.

[Headline] THE COST OF AV IS

£250 million

The referendum alone is costing £91 million. And switching to AV would cost even more:-

£130 million on electtronic vote counting machines

£26 million on explaining the new system to voters

So that is a total of 91 + 130 + 26 = 247

I guess rounding up by the odd £3 million for dramatic effect works then? I smell all sorts of holes in this system, but without any debate it can be stated that the people who are advising us not to change our voting system themselves are simply unable to perform basic arithmetic. For me that is a fundamental problem. Whilst the English language allows poetic licence, mathematics simply does not. Stick to the numbers, however you have come up with them people.

Here’s an ad for the campaign. What would be really interesting to know is that of the ‘cross section of the UK’  in the video below, how many said Yes and how many were filmed outside the City of London? We only see those who say ‘YES’, statistcally how many said ‘NO’?  I am sure the #Yes2AV campaign are guilty of exactly the same tactics – I will look at those next.

So for me the second thing I can derive from this Referendum is a plea to both camps to try and stick to facts and also to back those facts up. Making up numbers has no place in reasoned debate, first past the post or otherwise.

#No2AV I accuse you of basic errors. Please correct them.

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#oneaday38: Alternative Votester

I am actually really gutted that I have not made the consistent effort to keep up with the #oneadayproject, there are loads of excuses but none of them really matter at all. It has been a really busy and rather interesting time between March 9th and today, April 19th. Forty one, yes forty one days of being lazy, however interesting things have been.

So here is my attempt at getting back on track, well sort of. I am attempting a daily blog about the Alternative Vote referendum that is set to take place on May 5th. Very much the battle of the  #Yes2AV or #No2AV camps. At this juncture, I will declare that I am instinctively supportive of the Yes2AV team, although that is based on my sometimes fanciful and romantic view of democracy.  But there are loads and loads of pros and cons for both arguments, not least that it seems that no one ACTUALLY really believes in the AV system! Even Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minister who is a key figure in the #Yes2AV campaign referred to AV as ‘a miserable little compromise’ 2 weeks before last May’s General Election.

So, by way of the first short but sweet ‘things to consider about AV’  how about this one. If no one really believes in the AV system surely it is a shoe-in that the #No2AV campaign will walk the vote and few will actually turn up to vote in the first place?

So given that we should all use our vote, something that is our democratic right and our responsibility, it seems like we are turning up to vote on an issue and that is a waste of money, right?

Well wrong actually. The ConDem Coalition like to think that they know a thing or two about cost cutting and they cunningly agreed to run the Referendum on electoral reform which was a key cornerstone of the Coalition negotiations on the same day, May 5th,  as local elections will take place on in 279 English local authorities. Elections will also be held on the same day to the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales and Northern Ireland Assembly. In Northern Ireland, elections to the existing 26 local councils are also due to be held the same day. So at least extra cash has not be spent allowing us to cast our vote.

Any money spent will be spent by the respective campaigns on advertising literature both on and off line and broadcasts that attempt to sway the undecided. I am reliably informed the Government will not be paying for any of this.

So conclusion number 1 is:-

The Referendum on AV will not cost the country any extra cash. This feels right to me. A tick in the box and we are off to a flyer.

That is not to say that either side will not use economic arguments to get their point across though. More on Baroness Warsi’s ‘Election Counting Machines’ next 😉

Until tomorrow. Hopefully.

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